Veteran racing man senses success

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 16 July, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 16 July, 2005, 12:00am

Veteran racing broadcaster Ma Yan-chi says he has a sixth sense that tells him what horse is going to win a race.

'It might sound mysterious, but I do have gut feelings about certain horses sometimes. I can tell which horse will win for sure before a race begins,' says Ma, 50, who has worked as a racing broadcaster at RTHK for 14 years.

'There were times that my friends kept telling me certain horses were doomed to lose. But I did not believe them and even placed bets on them, and they won.'

Ma's sixth sense is supported by a rich knowledge of horses and nearly 30 years of experience.

He has hung up his binoculars for now, calling his last meeting on June 29, with RTHK deciding not to broadcast race meetings. Ma says he is taking a break before deciding what to do next.

He started as a racing journalist in the 1970s and began his career as a racing broadcaster at RTHK in 1990.

'I wrote for the racing pages at the Hong Kong Daily. Then I got a job doing a 30-minute, recorded horse-racing programme for RTHK in 1990, and a year later I started doing live coverage,' he says.

Ma spends up to six hours preparing for a racing programme - watching trackwork, viewing video tapes over and over and studying records of horses.

'I dare say I can recognise about 100 horses by their gestures, behaviour and special features that might not be obvious to the eyes of outsiders,' he says.

Ma says he was one of a few broadcasters who incorporates racing theory with running commentary.

'I think the reason listeners like my programmes is because I have theories to prove my analysis, which is supported by information I have collected about horses,' he says.

His style is probably related to his educational background.

'There were only a few university graduates in the field back then. But, thank God, my family never objected to my choice of career,' he says.

Ma has a sociology degree from Chinese University.

He taught English at a secondary school and also worked as a university teaching assistant before becoming a racing commentator.

His job not only brought excitement, but also helped him make friends from all walks of life.

'When I go to restaurants or take a cab, people from all walks of life ask for tips,' he says. 'I also bet on horses, especially my favourites. Naturally, I am more involved when I have to do live broadcasting because I want to win too. I share my listeners' excitement and feelings, especially when I win.'

Ma said racing was losing its audience as the young were distracted with other things, such as the internet and soccer.

'Most horse racing fans are middle-aged men, and they only think about gambling and forget that it is a sport too,' he says.